The Temple In Jerusalem: Looking For Mister X (chapter 3)

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The Temple of JerusalemFor those of you who are just joining in. Our study group began a new initiative. We started reading books together and discussing them online. Thank you everyone for wonderful participation so far!

The previous discussions about Chapter 1 & 2 are available in the section “Good Reads”. Please, read the chapter 3 of the book first and resist the temptation to simply comment on the section I provide here. (I found a downloadable free copy here and a hard may be purchased here.)

Prof. Goldhill is convinced that the Temple-theme has firmly captured imagination of many people. The following is his retelling of the act of confiscation by the Israeli war government of the Temple Scroll during the 1967 War:

“Even the story of the scroll’s recovery brilliantly illumines the longing that runs through the hope of rebuilding the Temple. Like most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Temple Scroll was found by chance by Bedouins – but fell into the hands of an unscrupulous dealer, Mr X. He allowed only tiny scraps that had fallen off the scroll to be seen, and tried to sell the whole mysterious manuscript secretly for a huge sum. The leading Israel archaeologist and future politician Yigael Yadin, whose father had been instrumental in recovering the first Dead Sea Scrolls to be found, was desperate to retrieve it: he negotiated repeatedly and unsuccessfully (and across several countries) with the dealer through an intermediary, Mr Z. After several years, all he knew was the dealer’s name.

In the 1967 war, Yadin was a leading military adviser, acting as the chief liaison officer between the prime minister and the minister of defense, Moshe Dayan. At the height of the battle for Jerusalem, he recalled that the dealer had a house in the Arab section of the city – until now unapproachable. After discussion with the prime minister and Moshe Dayan, he briefed a lieutenant-colonel of the Intelligence Corps with a description of the scroll and the address. The scroll was duly delivered by the taciturn officer during an intense meeting of the war cabinet discussing the attack on Syria. The scroll had been found under the floor tiles, damply rotting in a shoebox, along with further scraps in a cigar box. The scroll now has pride of place in the Israel Museum. The shoebox and the cigar box are both carefully illustrated in Yadin’s wonderfully dramatic account of his search.

In the course of the battle for Jerusalem, which brought the Temple Mount once again under the authority of a Jewish state, an officer is directed by the very highest authorities to save a cultural treasure which seems especially precious, namely, an ancient, marginal and extreme sect’s dream of a new Temple. This is a treasure not least because it is a sign and symbol of that time when the second Temple stood, itself so important to the different claims of legitimacy in the Middle East, claims being violently contested in the war itself.

What is most striking about Yadin’s story is the sheer complexity of how history, fantasy and the politics of yearning intertwine over the ages, and make the portrait of one man’s search so intriguing a mix of the political and the personal. Such is the strange power of the idea of rebuilding the Temple.”

What do you make of Prof. Goldhill’s take on this story? The floor is open. Speak your mind.

About the author

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Dolores Luthi

    I met Moshe Dayan when my late husband and I were on our way to Israel for our first time. I am so glad Moshe Dayan was able to find out where that scroll was hidden. The scroll being found is proof Ha Shem will not let His Word be destroyed. I am watching and wondering if the third temple will be built during my lifetime or afterward. Probably afterward since I am in my 80s now.

  2. Deborah G.

    Before commenting on Dr. Eli’s selection, I would like to take the liberty of first commenting on another short Goldhill statement from Chapter 3:
    “Because Chanukah is close to Christmas, and because the menorah, the candelabrum, is such a familiar symbol, it has become one of the most visible and recognisable of Jewish rituals (for all that it is not biblical in origin and, as festivals go, of secondary importance)”.
    Chanukah actually is mentioned in John’s gospel, and apparently Jesus celebrated it:
    John 10:22-23: “Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”
    Now to Dr. Eli’s selection. I always find myself in awe when pondering the coming together of multiple forces (political, military, religious, archaeological) that were perfectly orchestrated to form the miracle of modern Israel. The story stirred that wonder again in me, and awareness of the agony Israel has endured to obtain even scraps that are her rightful heritage.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Interesting observation (the second one) about the first what Prof. Goldhill meant is that Chanukah is not one of the Torah Ordained festivals. Jesus cerebrated Channukah, but it did not make this holiday “biblical” because he celebrated it :-). I know that it messes with the comfortable simplicity that we have in our thinking, but I think it is still true.

  3. Dolores Luthi

    I am glad this article of Chapter 3 has been printed so I can read it. It is fascinating to know how mankind grasps for any information one can get from the archeological finds and other findings that involve the Dead Sea Scrolls. I do not find these discoveries as fantasy findings, but as remnants Adonai has allowed to be found proving He has been here among the people. I am not surprised politics has found its way among the ruins man has caused. Yes, I believe the 3rd temple will be rebuilt but in my lifetime? I am glad the scroll is in the Museum at Israel rather than in a shoebox or cigar box.

  4. Kat Hobaugh

    I am now aware of my preconditioned position on the matter by the sheer scarcity of discussion in my circle of Christianity. I look forward to listening to others.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I am curious as to what kind responses this discussion may bring about, as I posted a part of the Goldhill’s book that is just a story. It is hard to get your head around it in a way. Glad you are enjoying our studies, Kat. Dr. Eli